Friday, January 25, 2008

This should be an advertisement for the University

I'm sitting in a Thai resteraunt in Van Buren when I hear the Arkansas fight song begin to blare in the background. At first, Farrah and I cannot determine if this clear sound is from a TV speaker or a cell phone ring. Finally we identify it as a cell ring (with excellent sound). About that time, after letting it ring for what must have been 10 rings worth of the university's fight song, a little Asian guy of about 60 flips his phone open, and with a thick Thai accent yells into it "AaallO!? WHO DE(a)R?"

Later tonight my phone rings, it's Abood, my best friend of Syrian origins now living in LA. "So... good news."

What's that?, I wonder aloud.

"Joe Adams, that cornerback and receiver hybrid from Little Rock who committed to USC? Yeah... well apparently he visited the UofA this weekend and liked it. Rivals even downgraded his commit to USC from hard verbal to soft. Good chance for the hogs to land him I think."

haha. I can just imagine the commercial. A guy from Bangkok, an Arab Muslim with his little cap on, sporting the long beard and living in LA pursuing grad studies in Islamic theology, and a cracker who just got in from killing deers in the Ozarks three-way call each other to talk about Razorback football... awesome.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A life worth living

I was stirred the first time I heard of Fr. John Meyendorff's eulogy to Fr. Alexander Schmemann, "his was a life worth living."

I recalled aforementioned line today while giving a lecture on the value of Philosophy. I was talking about the misconception that so many people have that Philosophy is "useless". Then I brought up the fact that practically any issue we debate, question we attempt to resolve, or stance we end up taking is fundamentally a philosophical endeavor. The problem, according to me, is that too many who deem philosophy "useless" are adhering to a narrow definition of usefulness that boils down to "a skill that helps me acquire tangible things." Then, practically without realizing it (I'd given the lecture three times without this addition) I just flatly said what was on my mind, "... and if someone honestly places no value whatsoever on anything besides skills that acquire material things, I hope they fail out."

Now of course the students recoiled, because they assumed that I was insinuating a bias against materialistic people that would be reflected in the grades. I quickly said that's not what I'm saying. I won't make it happen per se. But, I still hold to my comment.

For me the issue is one of a life worth living. Socrates, who thankfully is their first reading, put it so well all those years ago: "The unexamined life is not worth living." I think in his eulogy to Fr. Schmemann, Fr. Meyendorff might well have had this exact idea, if not even this exact quote and author (which I do not doubt given his classical learnedness) in mind.

Truth be told, we Americans have such access to education, and such an opportunity to broaden ourselves, that whether or not we choose to live a "life worth living" - an examined life - is just that, a choice. We have the opportunity to make it happen. We also have the opportunity to skip over this self-examination and simply make money, marry 2.5 times, and die.

Here I'm taken to an early quote from the show Battlestar Galactica. Captain Adama is giving his (he thinks) retirement speech, and he poses a quandry: "So often we are thankful for our lives, but we rarely ask ourselves - do we deserve to live?" For modern Americans (among others) I think the question could just as easily be rephrased "do we deserve our prosperity." I'm of the opinion that if all we produce are buyers and havers, takers and absorbers, users and consumers, or as Tom Hopko says "copulators and calculators", then we are little more than extremely blessed and gifted parasites.

I cannot, for all of the love inside of me, find it in my heart to sympathize with the self-imposed problems of those who take blessings without thanks, and forfeit their responsibilities.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

A funny evangelism brainstorming exchange today

Kyle: "So here's the issue - We always tell people that God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. They convert, but then later we mention 'oh hey, and now you have to give up everything.' By then, they don't want to hear that. So how can we front-load the question so that they know that God has a wonderful plan for their life, loves them, and also that it's not going to be easy?"

Me: "Easy. Start by telling them 'God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. Now let me tell you how the best plan God ever had worked out for the one he loved the most..."